A Practice-Based Approach to Sustainable Design Research

Exploring new creative directions in product design to include sustainable principles.

The research addresses the challenges of sustainability, including localisation of design and production, as well as substantive values and deeper, enduring understandings of human meaning.

The approach iteratively combines scholarly inquiry, reasoned argument and the development of theory with speculative explorations to create tangible design propositions that both inform and exemplify the theoretical concepts.

These propositional objects, together with the theoretical and philosophical ideas that informed their development, represent an example of creative ‘academic-practice’.

The direction taken recognises that the proliferation of product functionality via microprocessor-based technologies effectively frees ‘form’ to address other areas of significance – taking form beyond function to express deeper human meanings.

Selected publications and presentations in this area include:

Walker, S. "IMAGINATION’S PROMISE: practice-based design research for sustainability", chapter in The Handbook of Sustainable Design, Berg, Oxford, edited by Walker S. and Giard, J. forthcoming (2012/13).

Walker, S., Design for Sustainability: Practiced-based research in objects, environment and meaning, Keynote Address, International Symposium on Sustainable Design (ISSD) September 29th-30th 2011, UFPE, Recife, Brazil.

Walker, S., Experiments in Design for Social Sustainability, Keynote Address: Sustainability Workshop, Cumulus 2010 Conference, Tonji University, Shanghai, China, September 6-10 2010


Design PhD Studies in this area: Prof. Walker is one of several faculty members involved in the Design PhD conference - an annual event offered in conjunction with Northumbria University. He is particularly interested in hearing from potential Design PhD candidates with interests that would fall within the broad themes of design for sustainability and/or design and human meaning (values, spirituality etc.), or who have interests in practice-based design research.

Project Team

WalkerWalker Stuart Walker Design for Sustainability ; Design, Values & Spirituality


Design and Meaning

Articleby Stuart Walker
Design and Meaning

This research adds "Personal Meaning", understood as a combination of spirituality and substantive values (personal ethics), to our notions of sustainability. It expands conventional triple bottom line definitions of sustainability to include this fourth element (i.e. a Quadruple Bottom Line). Personal, Social and Practical Meanings are brought to the fore, while economic issues are demoted to a secondary order of priority, thereby acknowledging...Read full article

The Spirit of Design: objects, environment and meaning

The Spirit of Design: objects, environment and meaning

FROM THE BACK COVER: Imaginative design will be a crucial factor in enacting sustainability in people’s daily lives. Yet current design practice is trapped in consumerist cycles of innovation and production, making it difficult to imagine how we might develop a more meaningful and sustainable...More information